The patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church is consecrating a new church near the Eiffel Tower seen as a controversial symbol of President Vladimir Putin's influence in Europe.

Patriarch Kirill, an ally of Putin, is presiding over a blessing ceremony Sunday in the Saint Trinity Church on the banks of the Seine River. Members of France's large Russian community crowded in for the invitation-only event.

The imposing, block-shaped white church, topped by an 8-ton gold onion dome, is the centrepiece of a new €100 million euro ($106 million) complex owned by the Russian government.

Putin has championed the project, prompting protests from rights groups.

Since the 2008 sale of the site to Russia, diplomatic relations have soured over Moscow's actions in Syria and Ukraine.